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2021 Legacy Awards Ceremony

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The Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation’s Annual Legacy Awards Ceremony honors the best in Black literature in the United States and around the globe. Introduced in 2001, the Legacy Award was the first national award presented to Black writers by a national organization of Black writers. Since then, we have recognized nearly 400 works by Black writers in the categories of debut fiction, fiction, nonfiction and poetry, and honored 97 students with College Writing Awards.

This year’s event is hosted by one of the most prolific voices of our time, critically acclaimed, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones. The Board of Directors will also present three lifetime achievement awards to select writers for their storied career accomplishments and inspiration to the writing community—both on and off the page.

We look forward to celebrating Black literary excellence with you in October. Together, we will continue to honor Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright by supporting the work of Black writers who are shaping literature and inspiring change.


Nikole Hannah-Jones


Nikole Hannah-Jones is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter covering racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine and creator of the landmark 1619 Project. The New York Times's 1619 Project commemorates the 400th anniversary of the beginning of slavery in what would become the United States by examining slavery's modern legacy and reframing the way we understand this history and the contributions of black Americans to the nation. Nikole's lead essay, Our Democracy's founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true, was awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize. Nikole also has written extensively about school resegregation across the country and chronicled the decades-long failure of the federal government to enforce the landmark 1968 Fair Housing Act. In 2016, Nikole Hannah-Jones co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, a training and mentorship organization dedicated to increasing the ranks of investigative reporters of color. She regularly provides political commentary on national cable news outlets.

Kathleen O'Brien-Price

Chef, Real Life Cooking

Calabash International Literary Festival

Madam C.J. Walker Award

The Calabash International Literary Festival was founded in 2001 by novelist Colin Channer with the support of two friends, the poet Kwame Dawes and the producer Justine Henzell. Their aim was simple— to create a world-class literary festival with roots in Jamaica and branches reaching out into the wider world. A three-day festival of readings and music with other forms of storytelling folded in the mix, Calabash is earthy, inspirational, daring and diverse. The Madam C.J. Walker Award recognizes exceptional innovation in supporting and sustaining Black literature.

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi

Ella Baker Award

Ibram X. Kendi is one of America’s foremost historians and leading antiracist scholars. He is a National Book Award-winning and #1 New York Times bestselling author of seven books. Dr. Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and the Founding Director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. He is also the 2020-2021 Frances B. Cashin Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for the Advanced Study at Harvard University. Dr. Kendi is a contributor writer at The Atlantic and a CBS News Racial Justice Contributor. He is the host of Be Antiracist with Ibram X. Kendi, a new podcast he launched on June 9th with Pushkin Industries and iHeartMedia. In 2020, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. The Ella Baker award, named for the heroic civil rights activist, recognizes writers and arts activists for exceptional work that advances social justice.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

North Star Award

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the author of award-winning and best-selling novels, including Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun; the short story collection The Thing Around Your Neck; and the essays We Should All Be Feminists and Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions. A recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, she divides her time between the United States and Nigeria. The North Star Award pays homage to the significance of the North Star for enslaved Africans, who looked to it as a guide to freedom. The recipients of the award are individuals whose writing and/or service to the writing community serves as a beacon of brilliant accomplishment and as an inspiration to others.

Thanks to Our Supporters

We are deeply grateful to our grantors, sponsors, and The Writers’ Circle. The 2021 Legacy Awards is free and open to the public because of the generosity of our supporters.

Each member of The Writers' Circle made a significant contribution to help underwrite our celebrated and essential programs; support the foundation's mission to discover, mentor and honor Black writers; help us expand our programming, workshops, emerging writer competitions; and hire full-time staff.  Thank you!
Sheryll Cashin
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Maryse Condé
Wil Haygood
Karla FC Holloway
Attica Locke
Nathan McCall
Terry McMillan
Elizabeth Nunez
Chinelo Okparanta
Third World Press Foundation
Craig Steven Wilder
Additional funding provided by:
                The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities
                The National Endowment for the Arts
                Howard University
                Poetry Foundation
                Greater Washington Community Foundation Arts Forward Fund

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